Home Improvement on a Budget

What do you think of when someone says ‘home improvement’? Usually, it is someone using a few simple tricks and plywood and then magically turning a closet into a full bedroom complete with a walk-in closet of its own.

With the recent downturn in the economy, home improvement has come to mean ‘how can I do this job without it costing me an arm and a leg?’ Here are a few tips on how to improve your home by tackling some of the areas that people usually stay away from.


Until recently (the early 1980’s to the present), if you didn’t know how to ‘sweat’ a copper solder you were in way over your head with anything to do with interior plumbing.

All that is needed is the right connecting piece, a hacksaw, some pipe prep, and glue and you are ready to tackle just about any plumbing job in the house. Recently my electric water heater gave out so I had to quickly find another to replace it. It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. The water heater I wanted cost about $300 and the price to have it installed ranged anywhere between $250 and $400! I couldn’t believe it. I decided to go to my local hardware warehouse store and ask a few questions.

The first thing they said was that if I had a gas heater then they couldn’t help me because that had to be installed by a qualified installer, but since I had an electric water heater then all I needed was about $5 worth of PVP pipe and fittings plus a hacksaw and some pipe preparation and PVP glue. I was amazed and I must admit a little skeptical about my ability to make this repair without flooding my house.

But since I was going to save a great deal of money I decided to up the gallon capacity of my water heater so that I could later put it in a hot tub. After about an hour of work (most of which was spent removing the old water heater and putting the new one in place) the new, larger heater was in place without some much as a drop of water spilled!


Who hasn’t had thoughts of someone coming in and find your charred body lying on the floor clutching the end of a wire that you decided to put in yourself? It is this fear that keeps most people far away from any electrical improvements and the electricians well paid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m by no means advocating rewiring your entire house by yourself or messing around with the circuit box. Those things are best left to the experts.

But if it is putting in a new bathroom light fixture or replacing the heating element in your water heater for $15 (instead of $300 for a new one), then it is foolish not to make these improvements yourself. Make sure that you follow all of the instructions that come with your new fixture and pay close attention to how the old appliance was installed.

Yes, it can be scary at first doing minor plumbing and electrical home improvements or repairs but if you just ask at your local hardware store they can tell you if what it is you wish to do is doable or should be left to a professional.

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